Audi lead as Porsche inch closer to drivers championship

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The Six Hours of Bahrain was set to be an emo­tion­al race, as the FIA World Endurance Cham­pi­onship was not only wav­ing good bye to the 2016 sea­son, but to Porsche’s Mark Web­ber, LMP2 as we know it, Rebel­lion in LMP1 and not least of all, Audi Sport Team Joest from LMP1 and the WEC. Here is every­thing you need to know about the first half the race which marked the end of an era.

bahrain-2016-startIn a touch­ing trib­ute to the long serv­ing Audi team, the two R18 e-tron quattro’s were allowed to break their ranks on the open­ing for­ma­tion lap to lead the field, while race direc­tor Eduar­do Fri­etas referred to Audi as a matured fam­i­ly mem­ber, who they (the WEC) hope returns home soon, over the team radio waves.

Hour 1

Loic Duval got away well from pole posi­tion to lead the ear­ly stages of the race. Behind how­ev­er Mar­cel Fassler was the man bat­tling. First up was a fight with Toy­ota. The #6 TS050 Hybrid man­aged to make a move into turn one, but it wasn’t long before the Swiss Audi dri­ver swooped back past and back up into fourth posi­tion.

Next on Mar­cel Fassler’s list was Neel Jani in the cham­pi­on elect #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. The Audi dri­ver made a very late but per­fect­ly exe­cut­ed lunge into the final cor­ner, how­ev­er Jani then blast­ed back past the Audi into turn one. Fassler then tried to re pass the Porsche on the run to turn four but it didn’t quite pull off. It was to be a lap lat­er going into turn for, Fassler tried the out­side line, and fan­tas­ti­cal­ly kept his R18 e-tron quat­tro on the road and made the move stick, mov­ing him­self and the #7 Audi up to third posi­tion.

audi-7-bahrain-2016The run to turn four was cer­tain­ly turn­ing into a hot spot for action in the race. The LMP2 class was next to pro­vide the action with Pipo Derani in his ESM Ligi­er and Rene Rast in his G-Dri­ve Ore­ca. The lat­er fight­ing his way up though the field after los­ing pole posi­tion due to fail­ing scru­ti­neer­ing. The pair of them sweep­ing left and right all the way down the straight.

The next head­line moment was when Porsche, in a repeat of last year, saw their cham­pi­onship lead­ing car hit trou­ble. The #2 919 Hybrid crawled round the sec­ond half of the lap with dam­age to the left rear car, which end­ed up with the wheel com­plete­ly lock­ing up. After the unex­pect­ed and long pit stop, the Porsche returned to the track in sev­enth place.

porsche-2-problem-bahrain-2016By the end of the first hour the order read Audi, Audi, Toy­ota, due to Fassler mak­ing yet anoth­er move to get Audi up to first and sec­ond. Under an hour after the Audi’s were allowed to lead the first warm up lap, they led the field on mer­it in the race.

G-Dri­ve still hadn’t man­aged to make up for their penal­ty, and were not threat­en­ing the top three in LMP2. Alpine led the class ahead of the RGR Sport Ligi­er JSP2. The #44 Manor sat in third posi­tion in class.

Aston Martin’s Brits con­tin­ued to lead from pole in GTE-PRO. Jon­ny Adam and Dar­ren Turn­er putting on a fan­tas­tic dis­play. Ferrari’s James Cal­a­do man­aged to split the Astons in sec­ond. With Mar­co Sorensen still sit­ting in third posi­tion in class.

Ricky Taylor’s effort in the ear­ly stages but the Lar­bre Com­pe­ti­tion Corvette out in the lead, how­ev­er the #83 Fer­rari was still sit­ting in a cham­pi­onship win­ning posi­tion in third, ahead of the #98 Aston Mar­tin in fourth. Gulf Rac­ing UK’s Porsche held sec­ond in class.

Hour 2

Andre Lot­ter­er was doing a great job at clos­ing the gap to the lead Audi in his #7 R18, how­ev­er Mark Web­ber was the man on the move. The Aus­tralian using traf­fic on the run onto the front straight to draw along side Sebas­t­ian Buemi’s Toy­ota, forc­ing mis­take out of Bue­mi, allow­ing Web­ber to slip past and up into a pro­vi­sion­al podi­um spot in his final race.

The next dra­mat­ic moment came from GTE-AM cour­tesy of Turn 7 and Math­ias Lau­da. The Aus­tri­an dri­ver lost con­trol of his V8 Van­tage mid cor­ner before hav­ing a high speed spin towards the grav­el. Lau­da dipped two wheels in to the trap, but man­aged to get out and car­ry on his way.

By the end of the hour, the as ever front run­ning Audi’s swapped posi­tions for the lead due to the pace of Andre Lot­ter­er. This meant that the #7 Audi lead the #8 car. The #1 Porsche, now being dri­ven by Bren­don Hat­ley, ran in third place.

RGR Sport head­ed LMP2 ahead of pre­vi­ous class lead­ers, Alpine. ESM con­tin­ued to run in third with the #31 car. G-Dri­ve had man­aged to get them­selves up to fifth in class in the mean time.

GTE-PRO was un-changed from the first hour. The #97 car lead the #51 car of Bruni. How­ev­er the pro­vi­sion­al world cham­pi­ons, Thi­im and Sorensen ran in third place in class. KCMG lead GTE-AM in their Porsche ahead of Aston Mar­tin. Pro­ton Com­pe­ti­tion round­ed off the pro­vi­sion­al podi­um in third

Hour 3

A con­cern­ing radio mes­sage from Roman Dumas to the Porsche pit report­ing car issues with the #2 Porsche con­firmed the race for the LMP dri­vers world cham­pi­onship was far from over. How­ev­er the French­man con­tin­ued to dri­ve and was main­tain a posi­tion good enough to hang on to their world cham­pi­onship lead.

sunset-bahrain-2016In GTE-PRO, Nic­ki Thi­im was push­ing hard for Aston Mar­tin and made the move on Gian­maria Bruni’s #51 AF Corse Fer­rari 488. This there­fore restored the Aston Mar­tin 1–2 at the front of the class that was seen in qual­i­fy­ing yes­ter­day, as well as help­ing earn more points in an attempt to seal the GTE-PRO title for Thi­im and Sorensen.

A prob­lem in the pit lane for the race lead­ing #7 Audi was enough to see the race lead change back to the #8 Audi, now with di Gras­si at the wheel. Beniot Treluyer’s #7 held on to sec­ond place, and set about try­ing to close down it’s nine sec­ond gap to the leader. Timo Bern­hard was in third place dri­ving the #1 Porsche going into the final half of the race. Rebel­lion Rac­ing had sev­enth over­all and led ByKolles by two laps in their final LMP1 pri­va­teer race.

LMP2 Cham­pi­ons Sig­nat­e­ch Alpine had worked their way back up to lead LMP2 at the half way stage. ESM held sec­ond place in class ahead of the RGR Sport car.

signatech-lead-lmp2-2016GTE had Aston Mar­tin 1 and 2 in the Pro class, the #97 con­tin­u­ing to lead the #95 car. The #51 Fer­rari round­ed out the top three posi­tions. GTE-AM was not going as well for Aston Mar­tin. A repeat spin, this time by Paul Dal­la Lana in the #98 Aston Mar­tin at the end of the back straight fur­ther seemed to seal the cham­pi­onship for the #83 Fer­rari squad.

Abu-Dhabi Pro­ton led the GTE-AM class with three hours to go, ahead of KCMG mak­ing it a Porsche 1–2. Lar­bre Competition’s Corvette held onto third in class ahead of the Fer­rari.

Images — WEC-Mag­a­zin